Author: Randall Perry

Education articles


…from Chapter 13 The UK Space Design Competition book available at…/…/0985538147 by Catherine Twomey Fosnot – Most people assume that learning results from teachers transmit- ting knowledge: clearly explaining concepts, procedures to be practiced, and facts to be memorized; then testing to assess retention and application, with subsequent feedback. Yet this could not be further from the truth…Read the full chapter in resources or by clicking… does not start with concepts, but rather the other way around: concepts are the results of cognitive processes… Scientific inquiry describes the diverse ways in which scientists study the natural world and propose explanations based on the evidence derived from their work. Scientific inquiry also refers to the activities through which students develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas…. it is at the heart of how students learn. From a very early age, children interact with their environment, ask questions, and seek ways to answer those questions. Understanding science content is significantly enhanced when ideas are anchored to inquiry experiences. Scientific inquiry is a powerful way of under- standing science content. Students learn how to ask questions and use evidence to answer them. In the process of learning the strategies of scientific inquiry, students learn to conduct an investigation and collect evidence from a variety of sources, develop an explanation from the data, and communicate and defend their conclusions…Read the full chapter in resources or by clicking…One of the most significant impacts of the SDC is the effect it has on students’ career paths. Experiencing the SDC is stressful and challenging, yet many of the participants become so enthralled, they not only return year after year, they veer from what they previously thought they would pursue and opt instead for space science as a new career choice…The SDC offers new doors. Involving a diverse group of stu- dents from schools around the country who ultimately may even compete internationally; the project introduces new worlds to many. It also provides a startlingly rich contrast to the traditional teaching of math and science, which too often are still characterized by transmission, practice, test, and feedback.
Continue to read in or by clicking – resources.

O Trilogy



Wolf Canyon Ranch is a real place and was a real ranch. I say was, since it was sold to the Washington State Department of Wildlife and since been consumed by fire. In the book trilogy, the O trilogy; Off the Edge, Over the Line, Out of Time, Wolf Canyon Ranch (WCR) is the home and ranch of Jim Johnson and Heather Asplund. Before the three books were written, for twenty years starting in 1980, it was home to the books author, RS Perry.

It is a beautiful area. On the east side of the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Three mountain passes will get you to the Methow Valley, allegedly, properly pronounced Met-How. Some people, however, including the author could never become accustomed to the hard “H” and indignantly leave it silent. The settled part of the Methow Valley is not large itself. A few homes follow the Twisp River as it enters the valley from near the Canada border and eventually joins the Columbia River.

It is a special place for a lot of reasons. It is drier than west of the mountains. The north sides of the hills and mountains have ponderosa pine while the south sides support, at least at  the lower elevations, sagebrush. In the spring the hills are awash with wildflowers ranging from yellow balsam root to ultramarine blue lupins. Wolf Canyon Ranch has one of the largest groves of Aspen trees that turn mellow yellow in the fall. For hikers it is mostly government land and wilderness. And that is what makes it so special. Beautiful, with mountains in all directions. Hiking trails in the Cascades, hiking trails leading into the Pasayten Wilderness. The valley is both soft and gentle and sometimes unforgiving and harsh.

Even driving to the Methow Valley is spectacular. The North Cascade Highway, which opened in the fall of 1972 is one of the most dramatic and beautiful drives anywhere in the United States. The highway threads itself through snow peaked mountains and meadows and eventually flows through Winthrop and Twisp. The highway then climbs out of the valley passing close to WCR as crests a small group of mountains to the east. At the top is the local ski area called the Loup Loup. All of these places have the place in the O book trilogy.

WCR is nestled up a canyon, eight miles  from the ranching town of Twisp and nearly as close to the western town of Winthrop.  It feels impossibly remote and wild with no human sounds, other than an occasional plane. Deer, black bears and coyotes are an everyday occurrence. Eagles drift on the current up and down the canyon sometimes in the dozens. The ranch is an anomaly being so close to civilization yet feeling so remote. Not everyone would define Twisp as civilized but it has everything most people need, from gasoline, groceries, a coffee and donut cafe and more recently a brew pub. Of course if you have horses, cattle or llamas then you need the Twisp Feed Store. Through the years it has changed from a ranchers town to one blended with those from the Pacific side of the mountains, sometimes fondly and sometimes not fondly referred to as coasties. There is now even a small playhouse and art gallery.


O Trilogy


Jim Johnson novels cont. – Off The Edge, Over The Line and Out of Time.

Continued from previous post

The mountains between  Jim and Heather’s llama ranch and the west coast (Seattle) were notorious for bad weather, especially high winds and icing conditions. He quickly realized that he need a plane that could fly over the weather, carry more people and cargo, including the occasional llama, have instruments capable of getting the plane through treacherous weather and ways to shed ice. The Piper Seneca PA-34 is a twin turbo charged plane with known icing capabilities. Heated props, windshield, air intakes and expandable boots on the wings for shedding ice are worthwhile options for mountain flying. It could fly nearly twice as high as Jim’s first plane, a Piper single engined Cherokee and a lot more safely. Safe or not, his partner, Heather, was afraid of flying.

Jim Johnson, the hero of the Jim Johnson novels, didn’t learn to fly for fun but rather as a means of getting over the mountains quickly. While the Cherokee partially satisfied that goal. It only did so  only in fair weather. The thirty hours learning to fly the small single engine plane quickly turned into a 100 hours of instrument training in the much more complex Seneca. Well, that explains why he ‘needed’ a complex plane; it doesn’t explain his need for a helicopter.

Occasionally fixed wing plane pilots and helicopter pilots do not enthusiastically share the air spaces and many helicopter pilots are not licensed in fixed wing aircraft. They are two entirely different birds. Jim learned to fly for easier transportation than driving, but he purchased his white Enstrom F-28 for love. It was also turbo charged (for rising to higher altitudes),  with the same continental engine as the Seneca (back in the 1980s they were the same), and a good choice for flying through and over high mountains.

Flying planes is a technical exercise while flying helicopters is more of a seat of your pants exercise. The truth is, Jim didn’t need the Enstrom  like he needed the Seneca, but if he could have only one material possession, something just for the sheer pleasure of looking at it and flying it – it would be his small, sleek, white helicopter.

Jim’s Enstrom is an important part of the Jim Johnson novels. The novels can be purchased in paperback or in digital formats at Amazon or


O Trilogy


Llamas, planes and helicopters play an important role in the Jim Johnson novel book series by RS Perry – the Jim Johnson trilogy – Off The Edge, Over The Line and Out Of Time. James L. Johnson lives on a llama ranch in north central Washington. Planes are important for many reasons in the novels but one that stands out is flying injured llamas and alpacas. Colonel Johnson works at the “secret” Biological Warfare Center (BWC) south of Seattle/Tacoma, Washington. His job as an agent specializing in biological threats is not a typical daily nine to five. Still, he makes the 140 mile flight on average weekly. And if his services are urgently needed, his boss, the director of the BWC, General Will Crystal sends a plane or helicopter to bring him in.

Is it then extravagant for him to have both a helicopter and twin engine plane? Jim would be the first to say it is, as by nature he is conservative with money. Heather his partner would be the second to say it’s extravagant. However, he spends little money on other things, even on his llama ranch in Twisp/Winthrop. And the white Enstrom helicopter just makes him feel good to look at and even better when he is flying it.

The author of the Jim Johnson series has flown Llamas and Alpacas from Wolf Canyon Ranch near Twisp, Washington to Pullman, Washington for emergency medical treatment at the Washington State University veterinary school. I’m sure Jim would do the same.

Jim didn’t learn to fly until he started living at Wolf Canyon Ranch. He knew, from flying with his men in Vietnam that he loved hekicopters. He never thought about getting a plane or helicopter until he purchased his ranch. It was approximately 100 miles from Seattle by air. While the curvy mountain roads across one of three passes extended the driving distance to over 200 miles. The shortest drive, about 3.5 hours, could be beautiful especially on the little traveled North Cascade Highway, however it was closed during winter. And winter made the other two passes oft times an exciting icy driving adventure taking extra hours to drive, taking as long as 5 hours.

A reasonably fast plane such as a Piper twin engined Seneca cut that journey time to 50 minutes, depending on weather. Jim’s first plane  was not the Seneca however,  but a Piper single engined Cherokee. While cheap to purchase and easy to fly, and also a good plane to earn his private pilots license in, it had several limitations starting with  minimal instruments and a single piston engine.  Continued in next post… Books available on in paperback and kindle.


O Trilogy


My first llama hiking trip into the Pasayten Wilderness in north central Washington State was on a sunny September day. Not an unusual day for one of the largest wild areas in the lower US, which is shielded by mountain ranges to the west, effectively blocking the low lying Pacific rain clouds making their way eastward. The flowers were gone but the grasses and sedges were still green against blue sky. The llamas rarely lifted their heads as they gorged. It was peaceful and idyllic. Especially since there were no bugs. Why not? Well it seems the disappear when the flowers do. Not when it gets colder in this wilderness. Astonishing really – being out away from any human sounds, in nature, with no mosquitos and only the occasional fly.

Most of my life I had been too busy to go llama packing or into the wilderness but life had changed. Lanette who lived on Wolf Canyon Ranch convinced me that there was more to llamas then just breeding them for profit. Prices reached a lofty high in the eighties and then cascaded down the right side of a bell shaped curve nearly as fast as they had risen. The business of breeding and selling had slowed allowing time to find out what else llamas were capable of. It turns out that they are wonderful animals, as I had always known they were, but living closely with them on the trail and in the mountain meadows – they became truly special.

The characters in Off The Edge, Over The Line and Out of Time are for the most part fictional or bits and pieces of lots of people all mixed into someone new. The llamas, however,  such as Pipestone , Shasta, Meteor are just as they were. the same colors, the same personalities, at least as I remember them.  It was the Pasayten Wilderness and the llamas, along with special people that inspired the book trilogy. And made them such a joy to write. Writing about them takes my mind back to the wonderful times spent in the ranch canyon, nestled partway between Twisp and Winthrop in the Methow Valley. Times that can’t be repeated but can be well remembered.

RS Perry


Weekly Posts


Spring is just around the corner but the long evenings are still with us. Time to snuggle up with your favorite RS Perry novel and dream of a trip to some of the locations featured in them. It may be a little cold for a hike in the Pasayten, but how about a trip to Arizona, making a short hop Over The Line into Mexico.

If it’s a touch of the old Wild West you’re after, you can’t go wrong in Tombstone. You can shoot it out in a gunfight at the OK Corral like Heather’s friends Kristina and Nicola or visit any number of saloons and Music Halls. And for those of you like Ralphy who are more keen to fill your stomachs than empty your guns, there are plenty of restaurants, cafes and ice cream parlors to choose from.

If you are interested in mining and want to see what a mine was like in its heyday, then head to Bisbee. You can have a tour of a real mine and learn of some the hard and sometimes tragic life of the miners. You can even go prospecting for gold.  But don’t feel you need to avoid the abandoned mine near El Sauz. The terrible things that happened to the University group there were only fiction, thank goodness.

The Arizona-Sonora desert museum is not to be missed. There are examples of many of the plants, minerals and wild life of the area, all in surroundings as close to their natural habitat as you can get. See if you can spot olneya tesota or ironwood and peniocereus striata, the plants that the two sergeants were supposed to be collecting when they went on their recon mission to the hacienda.

Just Over the Line from the U.S, border town of Douglas, Arizona is Nogales. As in most cities, it is best to be careful but if you want to pick up a bargain at up to half what you pay stateside, there are plenty of shops and stalls aimed at tourists doing just that though you will need to haggle. You can also sample authentic Mexican food and wine.  After that, you will probably want to drive straight through Tubutama with your windows closed!

Arizona is surely a must for those who, like Jim Johnson, are interested in anything to do with astronomy.  It has some of the most prestigious observatories in the world including Kitt Peak Observatory, the University of Arizona Biosphere, Spencer’s Observatory  and the Planetary Science Institute. University of Arizona astronomers were just involved in finding the largest black hole yet discovered.

Unfortunately, the Fort Huachuca Museums are closed for renovation at the moment but we only have room to mention some of the places to visit on your Over The Line tour. There are plenty more, such as the Nature Conservancy birding center in the Huachuca Mountains. And hikes and trails enough to keep you occupied for a week or maybe more. Why not re-read the book and plan your own itinerary in the footsteps of Jim, Brush, Heather and their companions. Remember, stay watchful, stay safe and enjoy. It could turn out to be a great adventure.

Weekly Posts


Llama Packing in the Pasayten Wilderness area in north central Washington State on the Canadian Border provides a way to see this wonderful wild area and take some of the comforts of home, such as a bottle of wine, a large tent, a queen-size sleeping bag and even frozen food. Llamas are great company and allow you to leave that 55 pound back pack at home. Llamas have soft padded feet and are gentle on the delicate mountain meadows. Of course they try to eat that meadow but they are grazers and pick at many of the sedges and grasses doing little harm to the environment if they are moved on a regular basis. While relaxing on the mountainside among the lupines you might consider reading Off The Edge as a way to spend part of a sunny summer afternoon. You might even be sitting in the exact spot where Heather or Jim sat in the novel.


Weekly Posts


A Very Happy New Year to all our readers! May you enjoy long hours of pleasure with RS Perrys Jim Johnson novels and may Najma never get you. Thank you for all your comments and photos. Keep them coming.

Outside your windows some of you will be seeing a warm, sunny day, others will see the snow sparkling or blowing in a cold East wind. Some won’t be able to see anything at all for fog or mist or darkness. Whatever you see , you can be sure that there will be people out there like Jim and Brush, General Crystal and Nielly, fighting against crime and injustice, using their skill and their brains and the latest technology. So while we have been having a good festive season with friends and family, let’s spare a thought for all those who sacrifice their comfort for our safety, whether in the military or any of its unknown branches.

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, Heather and Duane and their helpers still have the llamas and the rest of the animals to tend to. They can’t take a day off for Christmas or New Year. They have to make sure there is water, not ice for all  to drink, the llamas have to have their salt to lick and they have to be checked to make sure any babies born are warm and cared for as llamas can give birth at any time of year. And very importantly, fences must be checked and made strong and safe as llamas, given the opportunity, like to have a romp  over the country side.

So stay warm and safe and dry by the fire while you can. And look forward to the next Jim Johnson novel, out this year.

Watch this space.

Weekly Posts


Our hero Jim Johnson is definitely a complex character. Who would have expected that a rancher and Biological Warfare Agent would have an interest in Philosophy? But Jim Johnson does and there are several clues that make this not as unexpected as it first appears. Jim is, after all, a scientist, interested in how and why things are as they are and what proof or evidence there is that we actually have the facts of the matter. Several of the other characters share this trait e.g. Sheilla and Bertrand. Jim is also extremely intelligent, a thinker and someone who reflects on his experiences to learn from it. Both he and Heather struggle with the morality of some of the actions Jim has to take in his job and the relationship between good and evil in the world. Jim and Brush share a ‘live in the moment’ philosophy knowing that this entails a mixture of skill, experience, observation and luck. They, and Glenda and others, act not selfishly but out of a concern for others, particularly the weak and oppressed.

It isn’t surprising, then, that the philosopher mentioned most frequently by RS Perry is Bertrand Russell 1872-1970. Russell had very definite views on a number of topics. He was an outspoken and active pacifist all his life and a voluble supporter of changing the laws on homosexuality. He believed in an equal and co-operative world that would allow the individual to flourish. He thought that religion was little more than superstition and while recognizing the positive effects it could have, he felt it was responsible for many of the wars and misery in the world. As a philosopher, he was very interested in mathematics as getting as close as possible to expressing facts, and in language and definitions. He wanted to explore whether humans could say that they ‘knew’ anything.

Bertrand Russell didn’t want to just find out about these things for himself. Like Jim, he wanted to pass them on to other people. He wrote many books on both the humanities and sciences for audiences ranging from academics in theoretical mathematics and other disciplines, to ordinary thoughtful people. In fact he listed his profession as ‘writer’ in his passport and won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950. He wrote with style and wit and many people still enjoy his writings. ‘A History of Western Philosophy’ is a hugely ambitious book and had rather conflicting reviews but it still remains one of the mostly widely read books on either history or philosophy.

Towards the end of his life, Russell stated, ‘Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.’ This is probably true for Jim, too.

Another philosopher mentioned is Will Durant 1885-1981. Like Russell, he wanted to bring the ideas of philosophy into everyday life and his ‘Story of Philosophy’ 1926 tried to do just that and was very popular. There are many different schools and types of philosophy and Durant attempted to unify them all and make them understandable. He also wanted to share his knowledge and believed in a unified society where each was working for the good of the other and where the principles of democracy and equality eradicated the lust for power. He believed in Christian principles but I think Jim would agree with him that to be yourself means to ‘rise above’ the impulse to ‘become the slaves of our passions’ and instead to act with ‘courageous devotion’ to a moral cause.

Ayn Rand 1905-1982 is different. Although she is sometimes spoken of as a philosopher, she is best known as an author, particularly of the novels “Atlas Shrugged’ and ‘The Fountainehead’ which illustrate her ideas on Objectivism. Like Russell, she is interested in what knowledge is and how we acquire it but she differs from him in her conclusions. The emphasis of all three on the importance of acquiring knowledge is something that Jim and Heather and RS Perry would certainly agree with.

The main difference between Rand, and Durant and Russell is over the relationship between the individual and the majority of society. Having experienced the worst excesses of collectivism in Russia, Rand thought that this kind of socialism led to a society in which the merits and aspirations of the most creative and intelligent few were stifled and sacrificed to the mediocrity of the many. While I don’t think Jim or any of his friends or colleagues would necessarily agree completely, most of them believe more in their own ideas and assessments than they do in commonly held beliefs and are prepared to flout rules and laws if the situation demands it. However Rand also believed that the proper moral purpose of life was the pursuit of one’s own happiness and the only society consistent with this was one that fully recognizes the right of the individual to gain wealth without restrictions. A bit like the ideas put forward in Dawkins ‘The Selfish Gene’. We have examples in the Jim Johnson novels of the how this can go wrong without the checks of morality. Nusmen is highly intelligent but is led astray by selfish personal emotions; Najma’s completely selfish pursuit of a twisted happiness pays no regard to the wishes or lives of others, nor does Farasie and Guillermo’s greed for amassing wealth by any means possible.

These writers all have an influence on the philosophy of these books but in the end, the dominant philosophy can be summed up in Heather’s words. You do something ‘because it is just the right thing to do.’

More information can be found on Wikipedia and in

Irvine, Andrew David, “Bertrand Russell”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL = <>. – Bertrand Russell

A History of Western Philosophy – Bertrand Russell, 1945 Simon and Schuster

The Cambridge Companion to Bertrand Russell – Nicholas Griffin, ed (2003) CUP

Bertrand Russell Memorial Volume – George W Roberts, 2013 Routledge

The Story of Philosophy – Will Durant, 1991 Pocket Books

‘Ayn Rand’ by Jeff Britting – Duckworth 2005

As Astonishing as Elvis by Jenny Turner – London Review of Books Vol.27 No.23

Wealthcare by Jonathan Chait – New Republic Sep 14 2009